Stragner appointed Justice of the Peace

Published 8:32 am Thursday, December 1, 2016

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader


Hershel Stagner Jr. was appointed Justice of the Peace during the Commissioners Court Tuesday afternoon meeting.

Last week the court announced the retirement of Judge David Peck. Peck is retiring on January 3, 2017. Stagner will be expected to start on January 4, 2017.

Stagner was one of six applicants for the position.

He is currently director of operations at the Orange location of Claybar Funeral Homes and is a life-long resident of Orange. He has lived in precinct one for 27 years.

“I have thought about running in an election when this opportunity became available,” Stagner said. “JP court is the people’s court.”

Stagner said he worked with the area JPs as well as other law enforcement officers during inquests.

“It is part of the position,” Stagner said. “I believe [working at the funeral home] helps with my ability to help families at that time.”

When the announcement was made, Stagner said he had to ask his friend sitting next to him if he heard correctly the vote was unanimous.

“I am honored and humbled to be selected,” Stagner said.

Everyone was not happy with the announcement.

Gail Barnett was one of two persons who announced an interest in the position at last weeks meeting.

Barnett opposed Peck in the 2014 election. Peck, a Republican, won with 66.34-percent of the vote to Barnett, a Democrat, who received 33.66-percent of the votes. A total of 4,041 residents cast their ballot in the election for Justice of the Peace, Precinct One. Peck had 2,681 votes to Barnett with 1,360 votes.

“A young lady ran against the last JP,” Henry Lowe of Orange said. “This guy, I have never heard of. It would have been fair to give it to her. She ran and thousands voted for her.”

City of Orange Council member Essie Bellfield told the court she was disappointed in the court’s decision.

“It is only fair for it to go to the person who ran,” Bellfield said. “She should have been first choice.”

Outgoing President of the Orange NAACP Franklin Gans said the organization would like an explanation of why Barnett was not selected.

“I know the background of the one not selected. I don’t understand the reasoning,” Gans said. “The NAACP is very concerned about this with her qualifications.”

Barnett has lived in Orange since 2005 and previously served as JP in Mississippi prior to relocating to Texas.